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Tuesday, August 3, 1999 Published at 11:46 GMT 12:46 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Interpol will not arrest sect leader

The govenrment has published books deriding Li Hongzhi

Interpol has rejected China's request for co-operation in arresting the leader of the Falun Gong sect.

Li Hongzhi, leader of the sect which was banned by the Beijing authorities two weeks ago, now lives in the United States.

A statement released by Interpol said the international police agency would not become involved in cases of a political or religious nature.

The statement said that Interpol's channels could not be used to arrest Mr Li "in the absence of any information about ordinary law crime he would have committed".

Rewards for information

[ image: Li Hongzhi is now in exile in the United States]
Li Hongzhi is now in exile in the United States
The Beijing Evening News cited police sources on Tuesday saying that Mr Li's capture was a top priority.

This followed an announcement on state television that the government would pay rewards of 50,000 yuan ($6,000) for information leading to the arrest of wanted criminals.

China, however, has no extradition agreement with the US.

Earlier the Chinese authorities told Falun Gong members they could be re-united with society if they renounced their beliefs.

This followed a mass protest in Hong Kong against Beijing's ban on the sect, and was interpreted as a sign that the authorities were concentrating on Falung Gong's leadership rather than its followers.

Beijing sees Falun Gong as a political force opposed to the Chinese Communist Party and the central government. But followers of the mediation-based sect insisted that their membership not connected with politics.

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